Carlos Sainz pipped Max Verstappen to top spot of final practice at the Italian Grand Prix to set up an intriguing qualifying session in Monza.
The third practice hour was mostly sedate, with teams preserving what ties they have left under Pirelli’s reduced allocation rules, but the session came alive in the final quarter with a flurry of qualifying simulation laps.
Verstappen rocketed to top spot first, but Sainz usurped him atop the order shortly afterwards with a best time of 1m 20.912s, pipping the Dutchman by only 0.086s.
Sainz’s advantage was largely accumulated in the flat-out first sector, while Verstappen was at an advantage in the final split, comprising Ascari and Parabolica.
Lewis Hamilton made Mercedes the next best team, but the Briton was mystified by the 0.541-second gap to the front, with his deficit spread around the lap.
Charles Leclerc abandoned his first flying lap on softs after running wide exiting the second Lesmo and bottoming out on the curbs. He returned to pit lane for checks and was able to rejoin the session, but by then the best of his tires were spent, leaving him fourth and 0.574s slower than his teammate.
He fared better than the sister Red Bull car, in which Sergio Perez was unable to set a flying lap on new rubber at all after his team discovered an oil leak in the back of his RB19 partway through the session. It couldn’t be repaired before the end of the hour, leaving him 10th.
Fernando Alonso was fifth for Aston Martin ahead of George Russell and Haas teammates Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg and the omnipresent Williams of Alex Albon.
Lance Stroll turned his first timed lap of the entire weekend on his way to 11th place. The Canadian gave up his car to reserve driver Felipe Drugovich in FP1 and then lost all of the second session to a fuel system problem, leaving him down on track time.
He completed 31 laps in the final practice session, the most of any driver, to make up for lost time.
Liam Lawson beat AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda to 12th by just 0.001s.
Oscar Piastri put in a messy session for 14th, including an off-track excursion at the Roggia chicane on an out lap and then a collision with Sainz in a botched overtaking attempt at Rettifilo, for which the stewards opened a post-session inquiry.
Logan Sargeant ended the day 15th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly.